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Alterra Case Goes to Civil Aviation

August 12, 2005

TWO months after the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MOPT) and Alterra Partners announced they had finally reached an agreement regarding their multimillion- dollar dispute, which has halted renovation of the country’s main airport for more than two years, the agreement has yet to receive any of the mandatory government stamps of approval.However, it does appear to be moving forward. On Monday, officials from the Technical Council of the Civil Aviation authority (CETAC) began reviewing the agreement to determine if they will approve it, the daily La Nación reported.The disputing parties agree that the contract addendum, as the agreement is being called, returns financial equilibrium to the contract Alterra holds to operate and renovate Juan Santamaría International Airport, outside San José. Minister of Public Works and Transport Randall Quirós told La Nación he expects CETAC to decide within 10 days. If approved, the addendum will move on to the Comptroller General’s Office. The comptroller will have 45 days to decide whether to approve it.The comptroller’s approval would allow the more than $100 million airport renovation, halted since March 2003, to continue. That month, the comptroller issued a scathing report that raised questions about many of the fees Alterra could charge airport users, particularly those for developing and financing expenses (TT, March 28, 2003).Alterra officials claimed the contract’s financial equilibrium was in jeopardy if the company was not allowed to charge the fees they said were previously agreed on with the government. Construction was halted after international banks funding the airport’s renovation suspended the final $30 million of Alterra’s $120 million loan pending the resolution of the dispute.Despite the fact that the Comptroller’s Office was the original source of the dispute, Quirós told The Tico Times in June he is confident the agreement will receive the necessary approvals (TT, June 10). Quirós maintains that he has taken into account all of the comptroller’s objections and suggestions throughout the negotiations.

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